Do You Love or Hate Apple's Locked Down App Store?

Illustration for article titled Do You Love or Hate Apple's Locked Down App Store?
Photo: Alex Cranz (Gizmodo)

If there’s one thing you can’t accuse Apple of, it’s being hands off. That’s especially true when it comes to its App Store, where every app must pass muster with Apple’s lengthy App Store Review Guidelines.


Today, Apple hit back against a Supreme Court decision in an antitrust case that accused it of price-fixing in the App Store. In a lengthy, public blog, Apple reiterated its stance that its hands-on approach ensured quality, security, privacy, and a good overall user experience. It also rebuffed claims it was using its rigorous guidelines to snuff out the competition, listing plenty of free competitors for each of Apple’s native apps (i.e., Citymapper, Google Maps, Waze, and Maps.Me for the Maps app). It didn’t stop there. The Cupertino-based giant broke out statistics, its pricing structure, and how it makes money (or doesn’t) off apps in its store. Basically, Apple went and decided it would show us all the receipts.

But that brings us back to the question at hand: Is Apple’s vise-grip on what’s allowed into the App Store a good thing?

The main benefit of Apple’s closed ecosystem is you can be fairly certain whatever iPhone app you download will not only work, it’s probably free of malware. While Google also reviews apps that pass through its Play Store, the fact is there’s a lot of stories out there about malware-ridden Android apps draining battery, stealing information from users, creating back doors onto phones, or even launching DDoS attacks. Apple argues because each app and update gets reviewed by Apple’s App Review Board, you can be sure your kid won’t get exposed to pornography or otherwise offensive content. Also, let’s not forget how Apple had zero qualms about ripping away Facebook and Google’s Enterprise Certificates for breaking its rules with some skeevy ‘research’ apps.

On the flip side, there’s a reason why some people are pissed at Apple’s approach to its App Store. You can’t sideload alternative apps onto your device, or download and install them from third-party services. Those critics have long held that in fact, the App Store was a type of monopoly and anticompetitive. I’ll admit that back in the day I jailbroke my iPhone 4S so I could customize iOS’s look and get some features that my friends with Android phones had that my iPhone was missing. (At the time, mobile tethering wasn’t an option on iPhones, I couldn’t download an app that would let me do it, and it drove me nuts.) Since then, there’s less of an incentive to jailbreak an iPhone—Apple’s added many of the features that made the practice compelling—but its rigid control over the App Store can still feel oppressive to anyone who likes a little more freedom to tweak their phones the way they like.

Personally, while I find Apple’s walled garden approach to be irksome overall, for some reason I give it a pass with the App Store. Still, having the option to alternatives would be nice. (I’m an adult, let me make my own decisions about what I download and how, yeah?) So, do you love Apple’s strict app curation, or is it compelling evidence that Apple is evil? Is better security, privacy, and quality a fair trade-off for fewer customization options? Sound off in the comments! Fight! Just don’t make us choose what’s best.

Consumer tech reporter by day, danger noodle by night. No, I'm not the K-Pop star.


It’s good. Phones have become an essential enough part of daily life that I’m willing to give up weird apps and customization in favor of stability.